Overview of EU environmental legislation
B. Air Quality
Air pollutants come from a wide variety of sources, both mobile and stationary. This Section deals the legislation concerning general air quality assessment and management and the legislation on controls of emissions from mobile sources, i.e. transport related emissions from motor vehicles and fuels.
Legislation on controls of emissions from stationary sources are dealt with in Section F, , concerning emissions from industrial installations and power generation, and in Section C, concerning emissions from waste incinerators.
The new Air Quality Framework Directive is designed to provide a comprehensive strategy for the management of air quality in Member States linking controls on emissions with the attainment of air quality objectives. This Directive will progressively take effects when its forthcoming daughter directives are adopted and enter into force. These forthcoming daughter-directives will replace three existing directives which establish quality standards for sulphur dioxide and particulates, lead, and nitrogen oxide. Under the Tropospheric Ozone Pollution Directive Member States also have to set up ozone monitoring networks.
A series of directives control emissions from motor vehicles and fuels through technical requirements on the vehicles and through limits on the presence of substances such as lead and sulphur in fuels. Additionally a Directive on emissions from engines to be installed in mobile machinery is due to be adopted soon.
B.1 Air Quality Framework Directive
Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management, known as the Air Quality Framework Directive, aims to set the basic principles of a common strategy which:
- Defines and establishes objectives for ambient air quality in the Union in order to avoid, prevent or reduce harmful effects on human health and the environment as a whole
- Assesses the ambient air quality in Member States on the basis of common methods and criteria
- Produces adequate publicly available information about ambient air quality and ensures that it is available to the public by means of alert thresholds, etc.
- Maintains ambient air quality where it is good and improves it in other cases.
Member States are responsible for:
- Implementing the directive
- Assessing ambient air quality
- Ensuring the accuracy of measurement
- Approving measuring devices
- Analysing assessment methods
- Co-ordinating on their territory the Unionwide quality assurance programmes organised by the Commission.
The framework directive will set key pollution management parameters for the private sector. New standards will be adopted under the directive which will replace earlier directives concerning sulphur dioxide and particulates, lead and nitrogen oxide, described below.
Over a period of ten to fifteen years, optimal ambient air quality limit values, margins of tolerance, assessment procedures and reporting requirements will be established for individual pollutants through a series of daughter directives. The first of these forthcoming daughter directives concerning NO2, SO2/particulates and lead is foreseen to be adopted by the Commission in Autumn 1997.
Once limit values and alert thresholds have been determined, ambient air quality will have to be assessed. Action plans must be drawn up for zones which do not meet the limit values. Measures must integrate the protection of air, water and soil and be aimed at meeting deadlines. The public must be informed when alert thresholds are exceeded.
- The directive's requirements presuppose adequate administrative systems, scientific know how and standards-based regimes for the management of ambient air quality.
- Countries should compare the framework directive's requirements with existing national laws and operational systems, existing approaches for achieving ambient air quality objectives, methodologies for air quality assessment, the availability of information listed in Annex IV and the means of improving air quality in order to determine what changes are necessary.
- Often new procedures of consultation between authorities, alignment of monitoring and measuring methodologies, reporting and assessment will be needed.
- Laboratories must be accredited in a manner consistent with European standards for quality assurance. Both laboratories and measuring sites must have organised systematic internal quality controls.
- Air quality improvement plans must be developed for areas of poor air quality with specific improvement deadlines. The plans may provide for measures to control or suspend activities such as motor vehicle traffic which contribute to the limit values being exceeded.
- Representatives from air polluting industries as well as other interested parties should be consulted on implementation requirements, especially on the drawing up of the improvement plans so as to smooth the way to compliance with air quality standards.
B.2 Existing Air Quality Standards which will progressively be replaced by Daughter Directives under the Framework Directive.
Sulphur Dioxide and Suspended Particulates
Directive 80/779/EEC on air quality limit values and guide values for sulphur dioxide and suspended particulates established binding annual and winter limit values and non-binding guide values for sulphur dioxide and suspended particulates in the atmosphere. Its main purpose was to protect human health and limit values were based on findings of the World Health Organisation.
- Countries need to assess whether there are operational measuring stations at sites where pollution is expected to be the greatest. Those measuring stations need to use reference methods for sampling and analysis of sulphur dioxide and suspended particulates. Additional measuring stations may be required.
- Procedures need to be put in place to allow data compilation and analysis at national level and reporting to the Commission.
- Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that in case the concentrations exceed the limit values in Annex I, the Commission is informed and plans are developed for the progressive improvement of the quality of air in those zones. This requires identification of the main sources of pollution and an assessment of emission reduction possibilities.
Council Directive 82/884/EEC prescribed a maximum limit value for lead concentrations in air to protect human health, but insufficient technical and scientific information was available at the time to set limit values for environmental protection.
- Countries need to assess whether there are operational measuring stations at sites where individuals may be exposed continually for a long period and where there is a likelihood that the threshold limit value for lead is exceeded. Those measuring stations need to use a conforming methods for sampling and analysis.
- Procedures need to be put in place to allow data compilation and analysis at national level and annual reporting to the Commission.
- Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that in case the concentrations exceed the limit values, the Commission is informed and plans are developed for the progressive improvement of the quality of air in those zones. This requires identification of the main sources of pollution and an assessment of emission reduction possibilities.
Directive 85/203/EEC laid down binding limit values designed to protect human health and non-binding guide values to improve the protection of human health and contribute to the long-term protection of the environment. The guide values are intended to serve as reference points for the establishment of specific schemes in zones determined by the Member States.
- Countries need to assess whether there are operational measuring stations at sites where the limit value is likely to be exceeded. Additional measuring stations may be required.
- Procedures need to be put in place to allow data compilation at national level and reporting to the Commission within six months after each calendar year.
- Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that in case the concentrations exceed the limit values, the Commission is informed thereof and that plans are developed for the progressive improvement of the quality of air in those zones. This requires identification of the main sources of pollution and an assessment of emission reduction possibilities.
Tropospheric Ozone Pollution
As ground-level ozone levels are increasing, mainly due to the increase in motor vehicle traffic in the EU, Directive 92/72/EEC required the Member States to establish an ozone monitoring network. It set health and vegetation protection thresholds for ozone and required each Member State to warn the population when these thresholds were exceeded. Threshold exceedances had to be notified to the Commission on a monthly basis.
During the course of 1998, the Commission intends to come forward with a proposal for a Directive within the context of the Air Quality Framework directive, establishing limit/target values for tropospheric ozone together with very precise monitoring requirements. When the provisions of this foreseen new directive start to enter into force it will progressively replace the provisions of Directive 92/72/EC.
- Countries need to assess whether there are operational measuring stations at sites where the threshold values are likely to be exceeded. The sites need to be selected in accordance with Annex II and need to use a reference method for analysis in accordance with Annex V. Additional measuring stations may be required.
- Procedures need to be put in place to ensure that in case the concentrations exceed the limit values, the public is informed in accordance with Annex IV, and the Commission is informed by the end of the following month.
- Procedures need to be put in place to allow data compilation at national level and annual reporting to the Commission.
Air Quality Framework Directive - Implementation Considerations
National Legislative Framework
- Compare directive's requirements to existing national laws and regulations
- Identify legislative gaps
Competent Authorities (CAs)
- Determine CAs for legal and administrative purposes
- National level CA will report to Commission on implementation
- Identify monitoring institutions and needs
- Define planning procedures and implementation controls
- Ensure transparency of decision-making, appeals and review of decisions
- Prepare Air quality improvement plans where needed
- Ensure monitoring, compliance, enforcement and reporting procedures.
- Ensure implementation of time limits fixed for air quality limit values.
- Provide full disclosure to the public where there are air pollution exceedances.
Air Quality Framework Directive Implementation considerations
The Standards Process
- Follow EU development of air quality objectives for the 14 pollutants listed in the Directive
- Be aware of timelines for the implementation of limit values which can vary from 10 to 15 years
- Determine when concentrations are between long term limit values and temporary tolerant values. Take action to meet long term limit values
- Monitor compliance
- Ensure that prior to air quality law creation, all parties including local government, affected government departments (e.g., transport), industry representatives, and the public are given the opportunity to comment.
- Make all Air Quality laws and guidelines publicly available.
- Ensure that ambient air quality limit values become a key planning tool for industry.
- Member States to provide permitting authorities, monitoring and control
- Affected industry to pay costs of compliance.
B.3 Emissions from Mobile Sources
Light duty motor vehicles
The base-directive 70/220/EEC lays down the technical requirements and the limit values for carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbon emissions from the engines of motor vehicles. These requirements were made much more stringent over the past 25 years by a series of amending directives. The limit values were first reduced by Directive 74/290/EEC and supplemented, with Directive 77/102/EEC, by limit values for nitrogen oxides. The limit values for these three types of pollution were successively reduced by Directives 78/665/EEC, 83/351/EEC and 88/76/EEC, whereas limit values for particulate pollutant emissions from diesel engines were introduced by directive 88/436/EEC. More stringent European standards for the emissions of gaseous pollutants of motor vehicles below 1400 cm³ were introduced by Directive 89/458/EEC. These standards have been extended by Directive 91/441/EEC to cover all passenger cars independently of their engine capacity, including requirements relating to evaporative emissions and to the durability of emissions-related vehicle components as well as more stringent particulate pollutant standards for motor vehicles equipped with diesel engines.
Directive 94/12/EC introduced more stringent limit values for all pollutants and a modification of the control of conformity of the production. Passenger cars designed to carry more than six passengers and having a maximum mass of more than 2500 kg, light commercial vehicles, and such off-road vehicles, which previously benefited from less stringent standards, have been submitted by directive 93/59/EEC and directive 96/69/EC to standards as severe as the respective standards for passenger cars, taking into account the specific conditions of these vehicles.
The Auto-Oil programme
Directive 94/12/EC requires that the Commission proposes standards to be enforced after the year 2000, according to a new multi-faceted approach, based on a comprehensive assessment of costs and efficiency of all measures aimed at reducing roadtransport pollution. Besides tighter car emission standards, the proposal should include complementary measures, like an improvement in fuel quality and a strengthening of the car fleet inspection and maintenance programme. The proposal should be based on the establishment of air quality criteria and associated emission reduction objectives and an evaluation of the cost/effectiveness of each package of measures, taking into account the potential contribution of other measures such as, inter alia, traffic management, enhancement of urban public transport, new propulsion technologies, or the use of alternative fuels. The necessary background investigation and research were carried out within the European Auto-Oil Programme.
The corresponding proposal for an amending directive, COM/96/0163 (COD), on emissions from light duty motor vehicles covered by the scope of the base-directive 70/220/EEC, was presented in June 1996 and is presently discussed in the European Parliament and the Council.
In parallel a proposal for a directive, COM/96/0164 (COD), laying down new requirements to improve the quality of motor fuels was presented by the Commission. This proposal is also under discussion in the European Parliament and the Council. (See B.7).
However, in order to achieve the air quality criteria laid down in the Auto-Oil programme , additional cost/effective local measures will nevertheless be needed in the most polluting areas.
Heavy duty diesel engines for motor vehicles
Directive 88/77/EEC established emission requirements for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxides. Besides a strengthening of the original limits introducing a two stage approval to be implemented in year 1993 and year 1996, requirements for particulate emissions were set with amending directive 91/542/EEC. Amending directive 96/1/EC allowed for some derogation on the particulate emission limit of smaller engines. In context with the approach explained above a new proposal is currently being prepared in order to introduce stricter requirements from the year 2000 onwards.
Emissions from engines to be installed in mobile machinery
A proposal for a new directive, COM 95/350 (COD),setting emission requirements for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxides and particulates on mobile machinery diesel engines is presently under discussion in Council and the Parliament and is expected to be adopted shortly.
Smoke emissions from diesel engines of motor vehicles, agricultural and forestry tractors
Directives 72/306/EEC and 77/537/EEC set standards for maximum capacity of diesel exhaust smoke. The main purpose of these standards is the establishment of reference values for roadworthiness testing mentioned below.
- Countries will have to determine the type-approval authorities as defined in Directive 70/156/EEC and its amendments.
- Where necessary the type-approval authorities can delegate technical work to accredited technical services that can be situated in any Member State.
- For advice on how to establish effective administrative structures, type-approval authorities and technical services, preferably in Member States which have dealings with a large national automotive industry, should be consulted.
Roadworthiness Test for Emissions Directive
Directive 77/143/EEC on road worthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers, as amended by directive 92/55/EEC, requires testing vehicle emissions in regular roadworthiness tests for the control of carbon monoxide (CO) and the air-fuel ratio for petrol fuelled vehicles and of the opacity of the exhausts from diesel vehicles.
1.The roadworthiness tests shall be carried out by the State, or by a public body entrusted with the task by the State or by bodies or establishments designated and directly supervised by the State, including duly authorized private bodies.
2.In particular, when establishments designated as vehicle testing centres also perform motor vehicle repairs, Member States shall make every effort to ensure the objectivity and high quality of the vehicle testing.
3.Advice should be requested from public or entrusted bodies of those Member States which have them in place for a long time and thus ensuring comprehensive experience and expertise.
B.4 Volatile Organic Compounds Emissions
Directive 94/63/EC aims to control emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions resulting from the storage of petrol and its distribution from terminals to service stations. It applies to the operations, installations, road vehicles, trains and inland waterway vessels used for the storage and transportation of petrol from one terminal to another or from a terminal to a service station. The provisions of this directive are currently being revised.
- Countries need to establish laws, monitoring and enforcement systems for meeting the emission limits for petrol vapour from storage tanks and mobile containers: trucks, trains and inland waterway vessels.
- Nationally harmonised testing procedures must be applied by competent authorities monitoring terminals and service stations, as well as vehicles and vessels for the transport of petrol.
- Countries must implement a range of technical and management requirements to minimise vapour losses from the handling of petrol at terminal and service stations and during transport.
- Prior consultation with industry and other interested groups is advised.
Directive on Emissions from Motor Vehicles Implementation Considerations
National Legislative Framework
Compare directive requirements to existing national laws.
Identify legislative gaps.
One main legislative tool (Motor Vehicle Act);
Adapt a section of the relevant legislation governing air emissions (e.g., Environmental Protection Act or Air Act).
Competent Authorities (CAs)
The National Authority should assume responsibility for uniform emission standards, overall quality assurance and tax administration issues.
Local CAs could manage local emissions monitoring and enforcement activities.
National CA to observe reporting duties to Commission.
- Develop a regulatory regime which can cope with frequent emissions reduction measures.
- Key measures include legislative apparatus for emissions reductions, tax incentives, new technologies, inspection and maintenance procedures.
- Consider local monitoring and enforcement measures.
- Authorised CA personnel could operate national inspection centres for new car fleets.
- CA to ensure compliance with production line vehicle emission conformity certificates.
- Petrol stations must be spot-checked concerning fuel nozzle sizes, petrol vapour recovery from refuelling of underground storage tanks and octane requirements.
- Consider licensing local private technical bodies to issue individual vehicle emissions compliance and vehicle maintenance requirement documents.
- Ensure that prior to the development of the regime stakeholders are consulted over emissions standards, new technologies, technical requirements and compliance procedures.
- Stakeholder should include members of the wholesale and retail oil and gas industry, vehicle manufacturers and retailers, other government departments (e.g., Transport), NGOs and other affected parties.
- Regular public communications.
- Government to establish CA and administrative support, public communications, information and advice to industry.
- Tax incentives to encourage innovation and to reduce emissions.
- Vehicle manufacturers and retailers to pay for compliance certificates and inspection measures.
- Vehicle owners to pay reasonable costs of individual vehicle compliance.
B.5 Lead Content of Petrol
Directive 85/210/EEC on the lead content of petrol allows Member States to reduce the permitted lead content to 0.15 g Pb/l as soon as they consider it appropriate; they must ensure the availability and balanced distribution of unleaded petrol having a content below 0.013 g Pb/l). The benzene content of both leaded and unleaded petrol may not exceed 5.0%. Unleaded petrol must be clearly labelled at the pump. Countries may prohibit the marketing of leaded petrol which does not meet prescribed octane levels.
The provisions of this directive will be replaced from the year 2000 by the requirements of the proposed directive on the quality of petrol and diesel fuel, COM 96/0164 (COD), (see B.7).
- Countries must have the administrative apparatus, including sampling and statistical interpretation methodologies, for testing lead and benzene content levels and punishing non-compliance. To ensure consistency on a national basis, labelling requirements should be established and administered by the Central Authority.
- In order to achieve compliance, both local manufacturing and retail sector monitoring of lead, benzene and octane levels in petrol as appropriate, should be targeted. This can be supplemented with random spot testing of imports through border checks and at the retail pump site.
- Countries should conduct discussions on implementation options with representatives of the oil and gas sector as well as other interested parties.
B.6 Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels
Directive 93/12/EEC relating to the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels sets limits on the sulphur content of diesel fuel and other gas oils. Diesel fuel is used in some motor vehicles. Gas oil, also known as light fuel oil, is used for self-propelling vehicles, heating, industrial and marine purposes.
With regard to diesel fuel used in road vehicles the provisions of directive 93/12/EEC will be replaced by the requirements of the proposed directive, COM 96/0164 (COD), on the quality of petrol and diesel fuel (see B.7).
With regard to gasoil and heavy fuel oil, the Commission has recently made a proposal to revise the provisions of directive 93/12/EEC.
In order to reduce sulphur dioxide pollution, particularly ground level concentrations in urban areas, the directive imposes maximum sulphur by weight limits for gas and diesel oils. Further reductions in sulphur by weight limits and related emission standards for diesel engines are anticipated. (The Commission has proposed a strategy to combat acidification of soil and water, together with legislation to limit the sulphur content of fuel which introduce generalised 1% ceiling on sulphur content from the start of 2000 -COM(97) 88 final). The directive does not apply to gas oil intended for further processing or contained in the fuel tanks of vehicles crossing a frontier between an EU Member State and a non-EU country. New limits on the sulphur content of diesel fuel will be introduced under the Auto-Oil programme.
- Countries must have the administrative apparatus, including sampling and statistical interpretation methodologies, for testing sulphur content levels and enforcing the requirements.
- Representatives for the motor vehicle industry and other interested parties should be consulted on implementation methodologies in order to avoid compliance problems.
B.7 Proposal for a directive on the quality of Petrol and Diesel Fuels
This proposed directive, COM 96/0164 (COD), which is scheduled to enter into force as from 1st January 2000 lays down specifications for the quality of petrol and diesel fuels. With regard to petrol the parameters for which specifications are established include benzene content, sulphur content, aromatics, oxygen content, and distillation characteristics. In the case of diesel the parameters concerned include density, cetane number and sulphur content. By June 1999, the Commission will bring forward proposals to establish fuel specifications for 2005.